March 27, 2008

Gauchos Look to Remain Hot at Home, Host Cal State Northridge to Open Big West Season

March 27, 2008

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This Week
Game No. 23
Friday, March 28, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Northridge Matadors
At UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

Game No. 24
Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 1:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Northridge Matadors
At UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

Game No. 25
Sunday, March 29, 2008 at 1:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Northridge Matadors
At UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

Gauchos Host Matadors To Open Big West Play
UC Santa Barbara will open Big West play this weekend when it hosts Cal State Northridge in a three-game series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos defeated the Matadors in a non-conference game in Northridge on Mar. 5, 9-3.

The Gaucho Record
UCSB enters its weekend series against Cal State Northridge with a record of 15-7. The Gauchos have won three straight and seven of their last eight games. On Tuesday, they defeated Westmont College by a 6-3 score. Last weekend, Santa Barbara took two out of three games from visiting St. Mary's. In 2007, after 22 games, UCSB was at the .500 mark with an 11-11 record. The Gauchos didn't win their 15th game of the year until game number 33.

Home, Sweet Home
The Gauchos enter their weekend series against Cal State Northridge with a pretty gaudy home record. With their win over Westmont on Tuesday, UCSB improved to 11-1 at home. After winning eight in a row at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium to open the year, Santa Barbara dropped a 9-3 decision to St. Mary's on Mar. 21, but then took the final two games of that series, and the game against Westmont to improve to 11-1.

Probable Starters - Notes
CF - Brian Gump - Has hit in seven of his last eight games.
DH - Chris Fox - Has five steals in the last three games and has stolen 13 of 14 this season.
1B - Eric Oliver - Leads the team in doubles with eight.
LF - Mike Zuanich - Enters the weekend with a six-game hitting streak.
SS - Shane Carlson - After hitting in 18 straight to open season, has been hitless in three of last four.
RF - Jon DeAlba - Eight of his 19 hits have been for extra bases.
C - Chris McMurray - Opens Northridge series with a six-game hitting streak.
3B - Patrick Rose - Has eight hits in his last 25 at bats, .320.
2B - Gunnar Terhune - Stole his first base of the season on Tuesday against Westmont.

SP - Mike Ford - Pitched as season-low five innings in his last start, Mar. 21 vs. St. Mary's.
SP - Mario Hollands - Hurled six scoreless innings in his last start, Mar. 22 vs. St. Mary's.
SP - Chuck Huggins - Leads the Gauchos with four wins and is 4-1 on the season.

For Starters, These Guys Have Been Pretty Good
The trio of sophomore Mike Ford, freshman Mario Hollands, and senior Chuck Huggins has given the Gauchos a pretty formidable starting rotation. Overall, UCSB has an earned run average of 4.20, but its top three starters have allowed just 29 earned runs in their 15 starts, a span of 91.0 innings, for an ERA of 2.87. Ford, Hollands, and Huggins have combined for 96 strikeouts and just 31 walks as well.

Ford, A Better Idea
Sophomore Mike Ford will enter his Friday start with a 2-2 record and an ERA of 2.53. He had his first sub-par performance in his last outing, a Mar. 21 loss to St. Mary's. In that one, Ford went 5.0 inning while allowing eight hits and four runs. He struggled with his command, walking five. In general, however, he has been outstanding this season. The loss to St. Mary's marked the first time in five starts that Ford failed to go at least 6.0 innings. Twice this season, in wins over Marist and Southern Utah, he has tossed 7.0 or more innings without allowing an earned run. On Feb. 22 against Marist, Ford went 7.0 innings, allowing just one hit and no runs, and he recorded 11 strikeouts. On Mar. 14 against Southern Utah, he went a season-high 8.0 innings, allowing just four hits, on unearned run, and striking out five.

Super Mario
Freshman lefty Mario Hollands redshirted the 2007 season and he was worth the wait. Hollands, who is scheduled to start on Saturday against Cal State Northridge, is 3-1 with a sparkling ERA of 2.08. He is second on the team with his three victories, and his ERA is the best among regular starters. Hollands had one of his best efforts in his last outing, a Mar. 22 win over St. Mary's. Against the Gaels, he tossed 6.0 innings while allowing just five hits and no runs. He also struck out six batters and allowed just one runner to advance past second base. Hollands has hurled at least 5.1 innings in each of his five starts this season, and he has never given up more than three earned runs. In his first career start, on Feb. 23 against Marist, he went 6.0 innings while allowing just three hits, striking out eight and walking none. Among his many positive attributes, Hollands has displayed outstanding control this season. In three of his five starts, he has gone at least 6.0 innings without allowing a walk. In all, through 30.1 innings, he has handed out just five free passes.

Chuck, But No Need To Duck
Senior Chuck Huggins leads UCSB in wins and will carry a 4-1 record and a 4.08 ERA into the weekend. Like his fellow starters Ford and Hollands, Huggins has given the Gauchos quality innings in all five of his outings this season. He has pitched at least 5.0 innings in all of his starts in 2008, never allowing more than six hits or four runs. Huggins has posted a season-high eight strikeouts on three occasions, Feb. 23 against Marist, Mar. 2 at Loyola Marymount, and Mar. 16 against Southern Utah. He has 33 strikeouts in just 28.2 innings this season, but he has struggled with his control a bit, walking 12. In his last outing, a Mar. 22 win over St. Mary's, Huggins allowed just four hits in 5.2 innings, but he walked four, a season-high, and gave up four runs, all earned. He did, however, pick up the win, and is the only Gaucho starter to record a decision in each of his starts this season.

Top Guns
Pitching is not the only reason for UCSB's success through 22 games this season. The Gaucho offense has been solid, and it has all started at the top. Center fielder and leadoff hitter Brian Gump leads the team with a .393 batting average, and he is second with a .439 on base percentage. Designated hitter Chris Fox is hitting .390, and has a team-leading .460 on base percentage. Combined, the duo has 65 hits in 166 at bats, .392, and an on base percentage of .451. Gump and Fox have each scored 22 runs. The 44 runs that they have combined for represents 27.8% of UCSB's total this season. Gump has 10 multiple-hit games this season and he has gone hitless just three times. In addition, he has scored at least one run in 16 of 22 games, and he has scored twice six times. He had a career-high five hits, to go along with three RBI, on Mar. 8 at Houston. Fox, who has missed two games, has had two or more hits nine times, and three on five occasions. He has scored at least one run 15 times in his 20 games, and two or more on six occasions. Finally, the Gump-Fox combination has been lethal on the bases. Fox has stolen 13 in 14 attempts, including a season-high three on Mar. 22 against St. Mary's, while Gump has gone for 12 out of 14. They have 25 of the team's 41 steals on the year, 61.0%.

Stolen Moments
To say the least, the 2007 UCSB baseball team didn't burn-up the base paths. Last year, the Gauchos stole 45 bases in 54 games, an average of 0.83 steals per game. Also, they needed 71 attempts to achieve the 45 steals. This year, UCSB has been far more successful, and efficient, stealing 41 in just 49 attempts, an average of 1.86 per game and an 83.7% success rate. Chris Fox and Brian Gump have combined to go 25-of-28, 89.3%. In addition, Patrick Rose has gone 5-for-5, and two other players, Chris McMurray and John DeAlba, are a perfect 2-for-2. In all, 10 different players have stolen bases this season.

Mirror Images
Junior first baseman Eric Oliver has a lot in common with his predecessor at the position. Oliver, as well as Robbie Blauer, the team's first baseman the last two seasons, each wear, or wore, number 21. Both players are from Orange County, and both attended Orange Coast College prior to arriving in Santa Barbara. Also, despite the fact that they bat from different sides of the plate, they are physically similar, although Oliver is slightly taller. Either way, the Irvine, Calif., native has given UCSB a dependable bat in the middle of the order. Oliver enters the weekend with a .277 batting average. He leads the team with eight doubles, and ranks third in both RBI and runs scored with 19 of each. In Tuesday's win over Westmont, Oliver ended a mini-slump by collecting a pair of hits, including a double, and driving in two runs. In three games prior to that, all against St. Mary's, he went 0-for-11. Other than the trio of games against the Gaels, he has been solid. With that series removed, Oliver is batting .319.

Carlson Goes Home
Junior Shane Carlson began the season as UCSB's starting second baseman, essentially trading positions with Matt Valaika. Recently, however, he has made the move back to short, and has been stellar. In fact, Carlson has been outstanding wherever he has played this season, second or shortstop. He enters the weekend series against Cal State Northridge with just two errors in exactly 100 chances, a .980 fielding percentage. Carlson has also been one of the team's best offensive players. Although he has just one hit in his last four games, going 1-for-12 over that span, he remains the team-leader in home runs with three, and RBI with 23. He is also batting .338, fourth on the squad. Carlson opened the season by hitting in 18 consecutive games, the longest streak by a UCSB player this season. Over the first 18 games, he had eight multiple-hit games.

Home Run Turnaround
In 2007, UCSB's opponents belted 51 home runs in 54 games. The Gauchos, meanwhile, hit just 35 in the 54 games. This season, that figure has done an about-face. Through 22 games, Santa Barbara has hit 17 home runs, a figure that probably wouldn't make the 1927 Yankees take notice, but an improvement. More strikingly, the Gauchos have allowed just nine home runs, an average of 0.41 per game. As for UCSB, four different players have hit at least two home runs, with Chris Fox and Shane Carlson leading the way with three apiece. The circuit clouts, however, have come from numerous sources. The Gauchos have 11 different players with at least one home run in 2008, and all but one regular starter has at least one. The only starter who has yet to hit a home run is third baseman Patrick Rose.

Around The Horn - Notes
UCSB is without sophomore infielder Matt Valaika who is nursing a sore right shoulder. Valaika, who began the season as the team's starting shortstop and has been shifted back to second base, has started 16 of the team's 22 games. He is batting .339 with two home runs, three doubles, five RBI, and 13 runs scored...Every regular in the Gaucho lineup has an on base percentage of at least .346. Chris Fox leads the way at .460, while Brian Gump is at .439 and Matt Valaika is at .406...UCSB pitchers and opposing pitchers have each walked 66 batters through 22 games, an average of exactly 3.0 per game...Zach Samuels and Clayton Edwards are tied for the team-lead in pitching appearances with 10 apiece...Reliever Kyle Brown has allowed just one earned run in 11.2 innings, striking out 12...UCSB will play a home-and-home series next week with Pepperdine. On Tuesday, April 1, the Gauchos host the Waves at 2:00 p.m., and then on Wednesday, April 2 at 3:00 p.m. in Malibu.